NBA Draft Prospect Profile: Lauri Markkanen

by Jonah Ballow
NYKnicks.com
@jonahballow

The Path
With basketball blood in the family, Lauri Markkanen is poised to take the next step towards the NBA.  Lauri’s father Pekka played for the University of Kansas and his mom enjoyed a professional career as well.  Additionally, Lauri’s brother Eero plays professional soccer in Sweden and his older brother also reached the pro level in Finland.  Markkanen made the move to the United States in search of a high profile stop at the college ranks.  The 7-footer committed to the University of Arizona and immediately caught the eye of scouts with his all-around skills.  After averaging 15.6 points and 7.2 rebounds per game during his freshman campaign, Markkanen decided to jump ship and throw his name into the 2017 NBA Draft.

Strengths
Markkanen is a legit 7-footer that fits the mold of the stretch big man in the NBA.  His agility allows for versatility on the offensive side of the floor when he attempts to shoot from the perimeter or work in the half court.  Markkanen buried an impressive 42.3 percent of his attempts from the college arc and 49.2 percent from the floor during his freshman season.  Don’t sleep on Markkanen’s ability to blow past his defender off the dribble.  For an athlete of his size, Markkanen is fluid and skilled, which makes his offensive game difficult to defend.  On the defensive side of the court, the 20-year old shows the ability to close out on shooters and defend pick-and-rolls when engaged in a switch scenario on a smaller player.  Exceptional footwork is a common theme when examining his strengths on both sides of the floor.

Next Level
Markkanen currently projects between 6-9 in most mock drafts.  His game is similar to Kristaps Porzingis, which may lead to the Knicks passing on him if available at No. 8.  On the flip side, owning two 7-footers with stretch scoring abilities in their early 20s is enticing.  Markkanen will need to improve as a shot blocker and rebounder at the next level but his upside is high and the NBA skill-set is visible.  The Timberwolves could be in play for Markkanen to pair with Karl Anthony-Towns or Dallas at No. 9 as the eventual replacement (if that’s possible) for Dirk Nowitzki.  

Statistically Speaking
Markkanen’s offensive rating is off the charts at 134.1.

What They’re Saying
“A versatile jump shooter, the freshman did the majority of his scoring in spot up and pick and pop situations, but also used his athleticism to attack closeouts, score on put backs, flashed face-up ability in the midrange, and made shots off the dribble at nice rate, and was even utilized off ball screens.” – Draft Express

“Markkanen plays like the prototypical NBA 4 because of his elite shooting ability from 3-point territory.  He also has great size and a great frame for a fluid athlete.” – Chad Ford, ESPN.com